FACE TO FACE WITH THE DEVIL
Devotional for February 18, 2018 based upon Mark 1: 9-15
Today is the First Sunday in Lent, that forty-day period that leads us to the cross and the empty tomb. Today we begin our journey in the wilderness, for that is where the Gospel writer Mark tells us the Spirit had driven Jesus.
Perhaps Jesus was seeking a time for self-examination. Perhaps He wanted to reflect on the ministry that He was about to begin. Perhaps He knew that this was going to be the last opportunity that He would have for a while to be truly alone. Whatever the reason – why ever He was there – it was in the wilderness that Jesus came face to face with the Devil.
When have you come face to face with the Devil, and how did it go? Yes, THERE COMES A TIME WHEN ALL OF US MUST CONFRONT SATAN. There comes a time when each one of us will be tempted. None of us ever totally escapes temptation. We all have to deal with some form of temptation, though some people seem to be tempted more often and more severely than others. There are some people who are facing temptations that many of us cannot even imagine.
After being out in the wilderness for forty days alone, Jesus was tempted like we all are tempted. Jesus confronted Satan head on. And Jesus shows us how we also can confront Satan head on.
There is something we need to understand about the power of the Tempter. The more we give in, the weaker we become. The more we resist, the stronger we become. WE BECOME STRONGER WHEN WE RESIST TEMPTATION.
Reminds me of something that happened when they were renovating the Queen Mary. That gracious old vessel was launched in 1936. Through four decades and a world war, this ocean liner served its owners and passengers well. Then it was retired to Long Beach, California, where it was anchored as a floating hotel and a museum.
During its conversion, its three massive smoke stacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. But as they were doing so, those three massive pieces of steel crumbled. Nothing was left of the three-quarter inch thick steel plates from which the smoke stacks had been formed. All that remained were the more than thirty coats of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel had been completely rusted away.
And the same thing can happen to people’s character. Some give in to temptation time and time again until their inner moral fiber is eaten away.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true. The more we give in to the Tempter, the weaker we become. The more we resist the Tempter, the weaker he becomes. Jesus nipped temptation in the bud. Jesus said No from the very beginning. We need to do the same.
Of course, JESUS WAS NOT ALONE in His confrontation with the Tempter and NEITHER ARE WE. The Psalmist proclaims, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The Gospel writer Matthew tells us that Jesus resisted Satan with words taken from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Jesus was putting Satan on notice that Satan was dealing not just with human power, but with the very power of God.
And the same power is available to us today. Jesus was not left all alone in the wilderness, and neither are we. God the Father was with Him, and God the Father is also with us.
A Christian camp counselor was questioning a teenage girl about her faith. Trying to help her prepare for the temptation that she would surely face once she was back home, the counselor asked, “What if the Devil comes knocking on your door and tries to lead you astray?” The young lady replied, “I will ask Jesus to answer the door for me.”
God promises each one of us that, no matter what, HE WILL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR US. We have a God who loves us unconditionally. He will never give up on us. He will pick us up when we fall. And if we ask for His strength, He will give it to us.
We will be tempted. Everyone of us will be tempted. We need to respond as Jesus responded. We can respond as Jesus responded. We need to confront the Tempter head on and reject without hesitation all that would weaken and destroy us.
We have the promise that God will be with us. If we ask, He will surely help us to overcome.
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE